A new paper published in Quaternary Research by Emerson College professor Wyatt Oswald and Harvard Forest director David Foster describes changes in climate and ecosystems in southern New England over the last 3,000 years. The researchers analyzed pollen and spores in a lake-sediment core from Little Pond in the town of Bolton, Massachusetts, and found evidence for three periods of extended drought during this interval.
Each year, the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America brings together tens of thousands of scientists to share research results. At the 2011 meeting in Austin, Texas, Harvard Forest research was featured in 25 different talks and posters. An alumnus of the Harvard Forest Summer Research Program (2006-2007), Alex Ireland, won the Edward S. Deevey Award for best graduate student presentation in paleoecology.
Alex Ireland, a 2006 and 2007 alumnus of the Harvard Forest Summer Research Program, recently published a paper with former Harvard Forest mentors Wyatt Oswald and David Foster. Alex is now a PhD candidate in Earth and Environmental Sciences at Lehigh University.
This winter, a new January Term course will be offered at Harvard Forest: Reading the New England Landscape: Conservation and human impacts on the past, present, and future. This highly interdisciplinary and hands-on course will explore modern-day connections between humans and the natural environment through the lens of long-term landscape change. Inquiry will focus on the historical and archival records and ongoing, long-term experiments of the Harvard Forest, Harvard's center for ecology and conservation in Petersham, Massachusetts.
A sediment record from Wildwood Lake, Long Island, New York provides insight into past environmental and ecological changes in the northeastern US. Analyses of pollen, charcoal, and organic content reveal the history of climatic variations, fire, and pitch pine-scrub oak woodlands over the last 10,000 years.
33 Summer REU students presented findings from their research projects at a Symposium in the Fisher Museum. Several students had continued large-scale research projects that have been operating for many years at Harvard Forest. Others helped with experiments that were in their first year, but that are expected to continue long into the future. These students learned a lot about the value of collecting baseline data so that future researchers will be able to detect changes in their plots. Still other projects addressed more computational and technological advances in the field of ecology.
Five thousand years ago, New England forests experienced a tumultuous upheaval. Across the region's interior an abrupt and massive decline of hemlock occurred, and the dominant tree was replaced by hardwood species. Simultaneously, on Cape Cod and the Islands, oak experienced heavy mortality and was replaced by beech. The driver of these coincident changes was a warming climate and periods of severe drought. How did other species and people respond? How did the forests recover from these events?
Records of past environmental variability provide insights into how ecosystems respond to climate change. In a study published in the Journal of Quaternary Science, Harvard Forest researchers Wyatt Oswald, David Foster, Elaine Doughty, and Ed Faison analyze a lake-sediment record from southwestern Connecticut to reconstruct changes in climate, hydrology, and vegetation at the beginning and end of the Younger Dryas event (13,000-11,600 years ago). Pollen and sedimentary evidence suggest that the New England climate became warmer and drier at the onset of the Holocene.
The Department of Energy's National Center for Climate Change Research has awarded $160,000 to Harvard Forest Senior Ecologist Aaron Ellison and Postdoctoral Fellow Matt Fitzpatrick for a two-year study to develop models that forecast changes in the distribution and abundance of tree species in eastern North American forests under historic and future climate change.